Scholars from the Council of Islamic Ideology in Pakistan have issued a ruling that laws preventing child marriage are "un-Islamic." The body advises the government on theological issues in order to ensure that the state's laws are sharia-complaint. Although its rulings are not binding, the body is highly respected and taken seriously. It was formed in 1962. According to current Pakistani law, the age of marriage is 16 for girls and 18 for boys.
CII Chariman Maulana Mohammad Khan Sheerani also advocated easing restrictions on polygamy. Currently men have to gain written consent from their existing wives before taking on additional ones. “Sharia allows men to have more than one wife, and we demanded that the government should amend the law” he said.
Tahir Ashfari, a member of the CII told AFP "There is no specific age limit for marriage in Sharia." The CII did clarify that the consummation of the marriage (Rukshati) ought to wait until both parties have reached puberty. Child marriage is prevalent across south East Asia and parts of the Middle East. Reports suggest it is on the rise in Pakistan.
Activists were quick to condemn the ruling, urging Parliament to ignore it and calling it a human rights violation. Zohra Yusuf, head of the Independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slammed the decision. She accused the Council of being "against the spirit of the religion." She said that it "wishes to open a new front against women"
Child marriage has been making headlines in other parts of the world. The death of an 8 year old girl on her wedding night in Yemen brought the issue to international attention. Recently the Iraqi cabinet approved draft legislation that, if ratified, would allow child marriage for girls as young as nine, based on Shiite interpretations of Sharia law.